R.I. Bond Referendum 2: Building block for modern chemistry facility at URI, new jobs

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October 14, 2010 — KINGSTON, R.I. — The science of chemistry is the foundation of many vital research and teaching endeavors and future jobs, whether they are in the health sciences, biotechnology, energy, the environment, pharmacy, nursing or high technology. On Nov. 2, Rhode Islanders will be asked to vote on a higher education bond referendum (#2) that will support jobs, research and teaching in these areas and more.

“We’re not just asking to build a physical infrastructure with leading edge teaching and research space, we are asking to build the sustainable supply of human talent and ingenuity that is necessary to drive innovation, to drive the frontiers forward in research and discovery,” said University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley. “Chemistry is the building block, the bedrock foundation.”

Question 2 is a $78 million bond that includes $61 million to finance a new Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences at URI and $17 million for the renovation of and an addition to the Rhode Island College Art Center. To date, the referendum has been endorsed by the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, The National Education Association Rhode Island Political Action Committee for Education, URI’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the Laborers International Union Of North America – Rhode Island Local 1033, the R.I. AFL-CIO, and the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce.

If approved, the referendum will create approximately 1,200 jobs over the next five years in construction, trades, architecture, engineering, management, teaching and research. When completed, the new chemistry center will allow faculty to compete more effectively for research grants, and move scientific discoveries into the marketplace more rapidly. As Rhode Island seeks to generate business and jobs, an educated workforce in these disciplines is vital.

“People do ask how this project is connected to creating jobs in Rhode Island,” says Dooley. “My response is that in addition to building the 21st century workforce in the state, we need to build the capacity to generate new employers – that is how you create new jobs. The kind of activity that will take place in this facility will encourage innovation and the application of those discoveries – the pathway to new growth and economic development.”

In fact, according to the American Chemistry Council, chemistry companies here in Rhode Island directly employ more than 3,700 people, and indirectly contribute more than 8,700 jobs. For every chemistry industry job in Rhode Island, an additional 2.3 jobs are created within the state’s economy. Rhode Island chemistry industry jobs are also good paying jobs, with an average wage of $67,200, generating $252 million in earnings.

Construction costs for the proposed $61 million Chemistry and Forensic Sciences Center will be $9.41 per taxpayer per year over the 20-year life of the bond.

Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences

  • Chemistry is now taught in URI’s Pastore Hall, which was built in 1953 to accommodate about 800 students. Today, there are more than 6,000 students taking chemistry each year and about 40 percent of all URI degree programs require at least one chemistry class. The lack of teaching and research lab space has created a bottleneck that has hampered growth in pharmacy, biotechnology, engineering, nursing and many other fields.
  • The proposed 120,000-square-foot, four-story center will have triple the amount of space for teaching labs and nearly double the space for research labs. Student laboratory capacity will increase by more than 50 percent, from 1,200 to 1,900 students per semester. The center will complete the North Science Quadrangle on the Kingston Campus and strengthen the University’s leadership position in the health and life sciences.
  • Chemistry faculty lead in such areas as developing advanced batteries to fuel energy efficient automobiles, improving resolution in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and creating new clinical methods for earlier disease detection.
  • The Center will house one of the nation’s key resources for research and training in the battle against terrorism – the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center of Excellence in Explosives Detection, Mitigation, and Response.
  • Rhode Island College, Arts Center

  • Bond referendum 2 also will provide $17 million to support building an addition onto and renovation of Rhode Island College’s 52-year-old Art Center.
  • The Arts Center houses RIC’s entire Department of Art. It is the location for all of the studio arts and arts education courses and related programs. About 2,000 students take one or more of the 130 classes offered each year. The art degree-granting programs currently serve about 240 undergraduate majors, 30 minors and 25 graduate students.
  • Built in 1958, the 34,000-square-foot facility was designed to house the student center, dining center, bookstore and library. Now the facility consists of classrooms, studios, and offices for the art department, yet it does not adequately meet the requirements of the academic program — including the need for areas to publicly exhibit student works. In addition to space redesign and improvements, the Arts Center requires a host of renovations to meet current health and safety codes for continued use.

  • For more information go to http://essential2ri.org/YesOn2/